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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

2 Samuel 22

Verse 1

DAVID'S SONG OF VICTORY OVER HIS ENEMIES IS ALMOST IDENTICAL WITH PS. 18

"And David spoke to the Lord the words of this song on the day when the Lord delivered him, from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul."

This entire chapter is a duplicate of Psalms 18, with only the slightest variations, none of which is of any special importance. However, these variations, inconsequential as they are, have been the basis of some comments which might not necessarily be true. For example, our greatly respected Dr. Willis, whose work in the Books of Samuel have been so helpful in these studies, pointed out that, "Whole lines may appear in one of these chapters but not in the other, words or phrases may appear in one but not in the other, synonyms of some words may be used in one of these in place of a different word in the other; and some words are transposed, appearing in a different order in one as compared with the other."[1]

All of this, of course, is certainly true, but what should be our conclusion from the consideration of such facts? Willis concluded that, "This shows that the Biblical authors were not concerned with preserving the exact words of those whom they quoted."[2] To this usual deduction, echoed by many scholars, we wish to oppose an opposite view which this writer has long accepted, namely, that both chapters, even with their variations, are inspired and true exactly as they stand. It is certainly possible that David repeated this Psalm with the identical variations which appear in them.

"BY EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD" (Matthew 4:2)

Christ made many arguments from the Sacred Scriptures to turn, not merely upon the exact words, but also on the very tense of a word.

Jesus said, "And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matthew 22:31-32).

The significance of this is that our Savior made an argument proving the resurrection of the dead to turn upon a single two-letter word, the word "am", and the tense of the little verb, at that!

The inspired writers often "quoted" Scriptures with variations, but many such "quotations" are not "quotes" at all, but new Scriptures written by the inspired writer. We have cited many such examples in our commentaries. For example, see our comments under Ephesians 4:7-8, and under Romans 12:19, where in both instances the inspired Paul used O.T. passages with variations, but they must not be viewed as Paul's faulty memory of what the quotations really were, but as NEW SCRIPTURE inspired exactly as Paul gave it.

David was the inspired author of both this chapter and Psalms 18; and one of them is just as inspired as the other is.

It is a dangerous notion that some have imported into their interpretations of the type of variations we encounter here, namely, the view that THE EXACT WORDS ARE NOT IMPORTANT. IT'S ONLY THE GIST OF THE TRUTH THAT COUNTS. It is always impossible to know what the GIST OF THE TRUTH is unless we can discern it in the exact words used by the Holy Spirit.

The apostle Paul, especially, was diligent to observe the principle which we are here advocating. He made an argument pertaining to the identity of Christ himself to turn upon the number of a single noun.

To Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to SEEDS, as of many, but as of one. And in thy SEED which is Christ (Galatians 3:16).

Here we have Paul's great doctrine of Christ, the SEED SINGULAR of Abraham, and it is an example of the extreme untrustworthiness of the RSV that the translators have corrupted the verse in Genesis 17:7 (which Paul here quoted), by substituting a plural word for seed (singular).

There is also an extensive application of this important principle in the interpretation of the N.T. The so-called doublets, in which we have similar statements by Christ, as variously reported by the gospels are not to be understood as variations of some imaginary invariable text, but as independently true and exactly accurate as they stand in the sacred Gospels.

The ridiculous critical canard that Christ made his declarations in some imaginary invariable form is not true. The ministry of our Lord lasted about four years, and, like any campaign speaker in an election year, he delivered the same message in different words upon many different occasions. There are two variations of the Lord's prayer, two variations of the Great Sermon called the Sermon on the Mount in one place and the Sermon on the Plain in another. All are exactly correct as they stand in the N.T. No proper understanding of the Word of God is possible without taking account of this understanding of variations in the vocabulary used by the inspired writers in speaking of the same or similar events and teachings.

(We have devoted fourteen pages to a discussion of this Song of David as recorded in Psalms 18 of our Vol. 2 commentary on The Psalms. The opinions of fifteen reputable scholars are also cited therein; and for those who are interested in a more detailed discussion of what is written here in 2 Samuel 22, we believe it is sufficient to refer them to what we have written there.)

The Holy Spirit did not convey IDEAS to the inspired authors of the Bible, trusting them to express them in their own words, but He gave them the EXACT WORDS of God's message, words which they frequently did not understand at all, as stated by the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 1:10-12. No system of interpreting Biblical passages is correct that ignores this principle.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 22". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/2-samuel-22.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.